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The PlayStation Experience: Sony sails to console success in Vegas

Sony used the PlayStation Experience to deliver a casual, biz-free, no-competition-allowed, meaty message of "games, games, games" to a captive audience of fans -- to great effect.

Christian Nutt, Contributor

December 6, 2014

4 Min Read

Games, games, games for gamers, gamers, gamers. Sony used the keynote presentation at the PlayStation Experience -- its Sony only fan-event trade show, taking place now in Las Vegas -- to deliver a casual, biz-free, no-competition-allowed, meaty message of "games, games, games" to a captive audience of fans who'd paid to be there and the wide web of anyone with high speed internet and a passing interest in PlayStation. As the keynote draws to a close, with Gamasutra attending it live, it seems like a very savvy move. E3 is always pitched as a battle. But with streaming technology, a wide-open calendar, and the money to rent out the Sands Convention Center, going big guns when nobody else is doing it becomes an even more attractive option. Early on in the presentation, I marveled that people traveled to Las Vegas to be delivered a marketing message. I know that's the world we live in -- and games is a consumer-centric hobby -- but that sense actually faded as the two hour barrage of trailers and announcements sped on. This is the press conference that gamers want. SCEA president and CEO Shawn Layden barely took the stage -- and when he did, the only business message he delivered was "the PlayStation 4 is the fastest-selling console of all time," eliciting a cheer and then getting out of the way for the first live demo of Uncharted 4 (which frankly looks like a great evolution of the franchise -- the knee-jerk cynicism I habitually equip before any press conference was swiftly washed away.) Why shouldn't this be the way forward, for all of the platform holders? During E3, despite the fact that Sony's press conference is streamed out to everyone in the world as it happens, it's at cross-purposes. Sony always tries to balance the constituencies of the business with the game playing audience; Nintendo has withdrawn from the fight for pre-recorded video; and Microsoft had long abandoned any pretense that it was producing anything but a show staged for television and streaming with its own press conference. This event pushes us further down that road with a slick direct-to-consumer, highly targeted marketing event. Here, there wasn't a suit in sight -- even on the suits themselves. Layden wore a T-shirt. As Layden got out of the way of the games, so too did he cede the stage to Adam Boyes, SCEA's affable everyman of an executive, whose self-deprecating sense of humor and genuine love of games makes him the perfect dude to put in front of this audience. And what a platform for developers this event was, too. Hello Games is benefiting hugely; Sony has smartly decided to capitalize on the hype No Man's Sky generated at E3 to turn it into a marquee title for the PlayStation 4. This is the fruition of the "We <3 Indies" ethos that the company debuted a couple of years ago, and it may actually be paying off -- again, it's hard not to be cynical (it seemed the focus on indies was a clever strategy to paper over the lack of first party PS4 games, early on) but if Sony makes good on this promise then it is doing something that genuinely contributes to the health of the game landscape. Why else would it put Robin Hunicke and Keita Takahashi on stage when all they had to show was the smallest, gameplay-free teaser of Wattam? The fact that Sony locked down Capcom's Street Fighter V as an exclusive is also remarkable. And such a long period of exclusivity for the Destiny expansion, too -- until next fall. These things can't be cheap, but the PlayStation business is cash-positive for Sony, and it's projecting even more profits for 2015, so maybe it's not my place to question the strategy after all. So far, Sony has turned the tables on Microsoft and established itself as the lead next-gen console. To be frank, none of us at Gamasutra were sure that consoles could continue to make a compelling argument for their existence in this generation -- with the ascendency of Steam, and indies, and PC ports of triple-A games. But Sony somehow has -- and more to the point, seems set to become the default console of the generation, as the Xbox 360 was in the Anglophone world last time around. This holiday sales season will be what makes that a reality or not, and with that in mind, it's hard to fault the early December timing of this event -- the promise of the PlayStation 4 (and PlayStation Vita, surprisingly!) were made clear right as the shopping season heats up. This press conference turned into a coup for Sony, a validation of the strategy of using an uncontested platform to deliver a gamer-centric message, and a massive "we're winning" celebratory lap as the company celebrates the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation brand. Disclosure: Sony provided travel to Las Vegas to facilitate attendance at its event.

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